Must See: Koe makes incredible in-off to score two
With the Tim Hortons Curling Trials quickly approaching, TSN.ca will profile one men’s team and one women’s team each day before the first rocks fly on Nov. 20 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
Team Kevin Koe
Skip: Kevin Koe (Age 46)
Third: B.J. Neufeld (35)
Second: John Morris (42)
Lead: Ben Hebert (38)
Alternate: Denni Neufeld (40)
Coach: John Dunn
Curling Club: The Glencoe Club in Calgary
Events: 5 (2 wins)
CTRS Ranking: 3
Highlights: Team Koe has won the ATB Okotoks Classic and the IG Wealth Management Western Showdown this season on Tour. On the Grand Slam circuit, they made the quarterfinal of the Masters, losing to Team Brad Jacobs, and the semifinals at the National, falling to Team Brad Gushue
How They Got Here
Qualified for the Tim Hortons Curling Trials via Curling Canada’s Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS).
Nov. 20 – Tanner Horgan
Nov. 21 – Brad Gushue
Nov. 22 – Matt Dunstone
Nov. 23 – Off Day
Nov. 24 – Brendan Bottcher, Mike McEwen
Nov. 25 – Brad Jacobs
Nov. 26 – Jason Gunnlaugson, John Epping
Expert Analysis from TSN's Russ Howard
Team Koe will win the Trials if…
"The defending champs. Koe has retooled the lineup bringing in two-time Olympic gold medalist John Morris. John has been a winner at every level, a fantastic upgrade. The concern for this team is Morris takes a lot of oxygen from the team with Ben Hebert taking the rest. Only a personality like Koe can play with that potential distraction. Let Koe be Koe and this talented team can win."
Overall, Team Kevin Koe might have the most experience at the 2021 Tim Hortons Curling Trials.
This foursome has a combined five appearances at the Winter Olympics, let alone the Olympic Trials.
Koe and Morris teamed up at the 2005 Trails in Halifax with Morris skipping that rink and Koe serving as the vice. Hebert was there, too, as an alternate. As one of the younger teams in the field, Team Morris went 6-3 in the round robin to qualify for the three-team playoff, losing to Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton in the semi-final 8-6.
Four years later, the Vancouver Olympic Trials took place in Edmonton with Koe now skipping his own team and Morris as well as Hebert playing for curling legend Kevin Martin. Koe missed the playoffs by a single game as Martin earned a bye to the final where he defeated Glenn Howard to punch a ticket to the Winter Olympics on home turf. Morris and Hebert were integral to Team Martin’s success as the foursome ran the table at the Olympic Games to capture the gold medal, establishing themselves as heroes across the country.
All four members of the current Team Koe competed at the 2013 Trials but were all on different teams. Koe continued to skip his own team in Alberta, Morris had joined Jim Cotter’s crew in British Columbia, Hebert was still playing front end for Martin while B.J. Neufeld competed in his first Trials as a third for Manitoba’s Mike McEwen.
Martin and Morris each made the playoff with 6-1 and 4-3 records, respectively. McEwen and Koe were on the outside looking in with records below .500
In the semifinals, Morris got the better of his former teammates, defeating Martin 7-5 by scoring a deuce in the 10th end. However, Morris and company ran into a red-hot Team Brad Jacobs in the championship game and lost 7-5 to the eventual Olympic champions.
At the most recent Trials in Ottawa, all four were once again competing. This time Hebert had made the move to throw lead stones for Koe as Morris and Neufeld were still playing with their squads from 2013.
After a strong week, Koe and McEwen (with Neufeld at third) squared off in the championship game. Morris missed the Trials playoffs for the first time with a 3-5 record.
Koe executed the draw to the four-foot with the last throw of the game, sending his rink to the Olympics in South Korea.
It didn’t go as planned in PyeongChang, however, as the Canadians finished off the podium for the first time.
Morris, on the other hand, won his second Olympic gold, playing with partner Kaitlyn Lawes in the debut of mixed doubles.
Last Four Years
Following the Olympic disappointment, third Marc Kennedy announced he was taking a break from curling while second Brent Laing joined Team John Epping in Ontario.
Koe was quick to replace the two holes in his lineup with Neufeld at third after the breakup of Team McEwen and Saskatchewan sweeping extraordinaire Colton Flasch at second.
The new foursome found quick success, putting together a perfect 13-0 record to capture the Brier Tankard in their first Canadian championship together in 2019, beating Brendan Bottcher in the final with a thrilling game-winning shot.
“I didn’t know if we made it. I was waiting for them to hopefully start jumping around,” said Koe. “I mean great sweeping. They went the whole way on that. I don’t know if any other sweepers make that shot.”
It was Koe’s fourth Brier title of his career.
They settled for silver at the world championships, losing to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in the final, but the week was highlighted by a pair of all-world highlight reels shots from their skipper.
Representing Canada at the 2020 Brier in Kingston, Team Koe played well enough to earn themselves a playoff tiebreaker but fell to Team Jacobs.
The pandemic hit North America a few weeks later, bringing a screeching halt to the season. Around that time, Koe announced a surprising roster change with the Trials approaching. Out was Flasch and in was former teammate and two-time Brier champion Morris.
Thanks to their solid ranking, Koe and his rink were invited to the 2021 Brier inside the Calgary bubble as a wild-card team. Morris threw second stones but held the broom for Koe’s shots. It didn’t take long for the former teammates to find their groove again as the foursome finished with the top seed after championship pool play at 10-2, earning a bye to the final.
In the Brier final, Bottcher, who Koe beat in the 2019 Brier championship, finally got over the hump and edged out his provincial his rival in a low-scoring 4-2 game.